0

Step by Step

And day by day. One thing I learned in Al-Anon (for friends and families of alcoholics) and have tried to remind myself of ever since, is that sometimes you can only take things one hour at a time or one minute at a time. Life is constantly changing. It’s in a state of flux and that’s what makes it interesting.

In step family life that can sometimes take on an entirely different meaning. That word…”interesting”. There are days you pray for “normal”. There are days you beg your higher power for “boring”. And there are days where you can roll with the punches and none of it seems so bad.

I took a break from Facebook a while back. I found I was on it constantly and with the state of the world so politically divided I just didn’t want to watch people fight anymore. I lasted two days, but it was a refreshing two days. It was around 2 a.m. when I decided since I couldn’t sleep anyway it might be a good time to log back in. I immediately upset myself with a comment I saw from my fiance’s ex wife about our handling of a situation with the kids.

Against my better judgement I responded to her on a mutual friend’s Facebook page. It took me hours to get to sleep. I tossed and turned, was so irritated, frustrated, and felt so set back in all the progress I felt she and I have been making lately. I let it deeply affect me.

I was wrong to do that.

I was wrong to post anything in the first place. Despite the fact that this story has a happy ending, I was still wrong. This is not my fight. It’s never the step parent’s fight. And it doesn’t have to be the bio parents’ fight either.

Things said online, whispers and secrets overheard from mutual friends or family members, stuff the kids come home saying from the other house… none of it matters. Going about your day as if none of it is true or worthy of your time is the best way to react. I speak from experience.

But I didn’t do those things above. I reacted. I got upset. I felt sad. I felt defeated. I felt betrayed, as if I had any right to feel a friendship or kinship with her when she may not feel the same. I woke up to a comment back that didn’t make me feel much better. And then I made all the same mistakes all over again. *I* responded again, this time saying I wish she’d contact me or my fiance privately about this.

Guess what happened. She did. She messaged me. We talked. Maybe we didn’t fully agree on everything the other person said, but the comments were deleted, we ended our conversation pleasantly, and life went on.

Not everything has a happy ending like that in step family life. It’s never a good idea to fly off the handle and respond to something when you’re upset. Sometimes it’s not even a good idea to respond when you’re no longer upset. I truly believe that about seventy percent of step family success is determined by your ability to choose your battles.

Will this matter a year from now? Six months from now? Five years from now? If the answer to the six months part is no then you’ve got your answer right there – don’t respond and don’t start a discussion about something that will cause more harm than good. Sometimes it’s just a time to be quiet. 

 

Advertisements
0

Re-Examining my Faith

 

13641246_10154277171057836_2948999501391850743_o

      Faith is such a personal subject for most people. I am no different. I grew up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses with a mother who was very balanced about it and a father who still considered himself Catholic but told me I needed to go to the Kingdom Hall with my mother. Figure that one out. He wanted to be a help to my mom and let’s admit, any kid is going to balk at going to church three times a week and going out in the ministry (door to door preaching work) every once in awhile as well. He did what he could with what he had, as did my mom. I’m forever grateful for the way I grew up.

     But I’m thirty-five now. I’ve had a child. I’ve been part of two step families. I’ve been abandoned by those in my former religion and I’ve seen the good and the bad that can come from organized religion. Faith is something I have always had. I took a class in college about “The Truth Project” and one of my favorite quotes ever was from someone in my study group who said, “Being in church makes you a Christian about as much as being in a garage makes you a car.” It’s about what you DO, not where you ARE.

     I have tried to live my life that way and I think a lot of people, Jehovah’s Witnesses included, try to as well. But what finally led me away from my religion? Bsides polyamory (which is discouraged in many organized religions). It was the need for freedom.

     I had a lot of freedom growing up. My parents trusted me and I was worthy of that trust. I had friends who weren’t JWs and my mom was really fair about allowing kids over who were good influences, no matter their religion. I didn’t rebel (much). And I never drank or smoked until I was of age. But religious freedom…. That’s a complicated subject. What grants us religious freedom (at least here in the U.S.)? We all know that we are covered under the Bill of Rights. But what about in our hearts, in our families, and in our own lives and relationships? Depending on the religion you’re in, you may not have that much freedom. Such is the case with the religion I grew up in.

     You can’t associate with people who aren’t of your religion. You can’t accept blood transfusions. If a family member is disfellowshipped (kicked out) you cannot speak to them. You must attend meetings and not question your faith or you will be looked at as an apostate.

     Though I was granted freedom at home, I constantly felt out of place and like an outsider at the Kingdom Hall. I will never forget two Elders (ministers) coming to my parents’ house for a “shepherding call” where they checked in on each of the people in their smaller groups within the congregation. A great idea in theory and I in fact appreciated the help at times, but this one visit stood out to me as very negative. In fact, my father ended up asking the two men to finish their visit and leave. My father never speaks up like that. To this day I am grateful. One of the men showed me our coffee table and said, “This is Jehovah’s Organization. Where do you want to be on the table?” To me, a teenager at the time, I thought anywhere was okay as long as it was ON the table. I pointed somewhere to the edge and said, “Well, here I guess.” They proceeded to grill me about why I wanted to be on the “outskirts” of the religion and why I didn’t have enough faith in Jehovah.

     I stayed in the JW organization for many years. I stayed through getting in trouble for marrying my husband, my son’s father, who was kicked out at the time. I stayed through getting in trouble for having a blood transfusion when I was a new mother and I was going to die otherwise. I felt dirty and guilty and apologetic. I stayed while friends left, while I lost relationships, while my extended family hoped the best for me.

     Then I left. I became polyamorous. I left my abusive husband, whom no one in the congregation had helped me to escape from. I started to raise my son the way I thought was best and right and moral WITHOUT an established religion background. And I grew stronger. And I realized that other religions aren’t bad. That there are many ways to the Light and that JWs are possibly just one of the many ways.

     I started researching Wiccan, Druid, Catholic, Jewish, Baptist, Buddhist, and other Christian and Pagan and religions. I LOVED it. And so did my son, only five years old at the time. He wanted to learn more and to see how different people think. I found it fascinating to watch him encourage me to attend a local church down the street that he wanted to check out. At only five!

     I started reading any books about religions that I could get my hand on. I own a Koran, at least 6 versions of the Bible, Buddhist works, Christian works, Unitarian Universalist works, the writings of many Witches, and also Taoist writings. It’s all fascinating. It’s all surrounded in love, light, and beauty. And I wonder… how did I survive so long without this Light in my life?

 

*Footnote: Please feel free to share in the comments about your spiritual awakenings and what you associate yourself with now.

0

Captain SONAR – You Heard Right.

Hello, fellow geeks! I have been absent for quite some time from PWN. I needed to get homeschool under control for my kiddos and do some work on my paper for my online doula course. As I’ve started back into the gaming and writing world,  I’ve been thinking a lot about “gamer” and what that means, and also what games have attracted me to identify as a gamer.

I categorize “gamer” by thinking of the term as “anyone who enjoys any type of game and identifies as a gamer”. That said, I am not as intense or knowledgeable as some. Game nights are a weekly occurrence, if not nightly, at my house. My typical schedule is that I will play a round of cards (Pokemon, Magic the Gathering) or watch the guys play Raw Deal, but then when they break out Brimstone and Pathfinder I am ready to go sit down and read or knit while I watch them play from afar.

Recently that changed. My husband and I stopped into Toy Vault where I spotted a game called “Captain SONAR”. With him being active Navy, my fiance being former Navy, and my group of friends being centered around quite a few people in or related to the Navy, I thought a game called Captain SONAR was fairly hilarious.  I begged him to buy it and he said he’d actually heard good things about it and acquiesced. I giggled off and on about it all the way home.

We brought the game back and didn’t get to it right away. It sat for a little while in our room, with us occasionally making jokes about it and saying we’d get it out eventually. Well “eventually” arrived one night when the four adults in my house were bored and we broke out Captain SONAR. Polyamorous families work out well for many reasons and one of them is that with the four of us, we had enough for two people on each team. There are four positions on each of the two teams so we each covered two positions. For the “turn by turn” mode, this worked well. For the “live” mode, you would need four people on each team to properly cover all the information and strategy needed.

The four positions up for grabs are Captain, first mate, engineer, and radio operator. Radio is basically the SONAR position. You track the other team’s movements on a clear dry erase sheet and try to pinpoint where on the map they are by listening to the directions they call out (North, South, East, and West). You can then move the dry erase sheet around the map and see if any of your guesses are getting close. The Captain decides where their team goes and calls out one of the four directions. The first mate listens to the Captain’s directions and crosses off a tick on one of the weapons available. When all the slots are filled (one for each move your team makes) for one type of weapon, you may use that weapon. It will either be a mine, a torpedo, drone, sonar, silence, and scenario. And the engineer also has to make a tick on parts of the ship for each direction you move. When one circuit is filled you can clear the “damage” to that circuit.

The other team does the same and you have a divider (included with the game) on the table in between the two teams so that you can’t see the precise location the opposing team is at on the map.

It’s more sophisticated Battleship and requires some more strategy as you can choose from a variety of different weapons and radio operations to try to track down your target. The tricky part of this game comes in after five moves because at that point “silence” is filled and ready to use. “Silence ready, Captain.”
“Silence ready, aye.”

And then the game is on. Because once you go silent, you can move a certain amount of spaces without informing the other team of what direction you are going. You simply say what sector you surfaced in and go from there. The board is wiped clean and all your tracking of them was for naught.

sonar4

It’s a great group game night idea, but it’s too advanced for my kids who are dying to play. We have played sober, but honestly one of our favorite things to do is get our submarine shot glasses out (hey, we’re a Navy family. We’re nerds.) and take a shot for each damage taken. In the game, if you reach four damage you have sunk. If you reach four shots, we’re usually ready for another game.

Give it a try. It’s well-worth the price.

 

0

The Day of the Forgotten Mom

site_28_rand_1973270124_stepmom_627

Did you know there is a Stepmother’s Day?  Most don’t.  It’s the Sunday following Mother’s Day, which I think speaks volumes about the day and people’s thoughts on it.  Is it a completely separate event, with enough time to plan for both days properly and to give appreciation to both mothers and stepmothers?  With the two holidays being only a week apart, I think the obvious answer is “no”.

I’d be happy to be acknowledged on Stepmother’s Day OR Mother’s Day (or both) because it means whoever did so put some thought and effort into thinking of me on that day.  Last year my Anchor recognized me on Mother’s Day.  He bought me a small gift and took me out for the day.  We had a lovely time driving around the Berkshires and wandering into little shops, all child-free since his kids were with their mom and my son was with his dad.  His father offered me the weekend, but honestly what’s better for a mom than a nice quiet day?

This year I was acknowledged on Mother’s Day again, this time by both my partners, and all three of my kids. I was given a nice day of relaxing at home, coffee, pictures by the kids, breakfast by my fiance, etc. It was lovely. I plan to ignore the significance of next Sunday because I simply have no need of it.

I’m going to just say it – I don’t like Stepmother’s Day.  I think mothers – ALL mothers – should be acknowledged on Mother’s Day.  After all, if your wife is good enough to recognize on Stepmother’s Day, why not instead on Mother’s Day?  Stepmother’s Day is redundant.  I’m already a mother, no matter what anyone else says.  Maybe my stepkids’ mom doesn’t feel that way.  Maybe my partner’s parents don’t feel that way (my Anchor’s parents are actually amazing and are very respectful of my place in the kids’ lives).  Guess what!  That….doesn’t…matter!  All that matters is how your partner, the other bio parent of the kids, feels.

If he or she respects your role in their kids’ lives then you will get recognized on whichever day you’d like.  The key is to learn to say what you need, express yourself, put your feelings out there.  If you’re with someone you can’t do that with, find someone you CAN do that with.

If you’d prefer to celebrate Stepmother’s Day as opposed to Mother’s Day (or even if you’d prefer to celebrate both), then all the more power to you. Just be sure to tell your partner what you want and need. Because without that communication in the first place, they’ll never know. And most of them certainly won’t know about a day set aside for stepmothers. By the way, Stepfather’s Day is also the Sunday after Father’s Day.

0

Breaking the Mold

One day recently I took my son to violin lessons.  It happened that my step kids’ mom had planned my step daughter’s lesson on the same day.  We actually arranged it that way so we could both meet the teacher and see how lessons together would work.

That in and of itself is already shocking to other people in step families. I guarantee it. It gets weirder. We basically get along and talk almost daily. There are lulls. There are rough times where I’m sure neither of us wants to deal with the other. There are days where the kids are driving us crazy and we’d probably *like* to confide in one another more but the trust just isn’t quite there between a mom and stepmom.

She and I both happen to be into crafting. She knits and creates some beautiful pieces of other materials as well, while also making homemade remedies. I create a lot of clay crafts, mostly geek oriented, but usually just anything that pops into my brain. We have worked a couple craft fairs now where we happened to be at the same one. We didn’t intend to sign up together, but it worked out that way. And at one we were even right across the aisle from each other for our booth setup.

At the second one when we were directly across a small aisle from each other, I suggested to her that we should direct people over to each other’s booths. She happened to have some knitted gloves that matched some earrings I had made and vice versa. I told her everyone loves a gimmick and honestly if you’re just open with customers and tell them your little story and the fact that you’re a mom and stepmom duo who happen to be working sort of together, they find it fascinating.

Why in this day and age do people find women getting along to be fascinating, I wonder? Women in general are not expected to get along. That’s why terms like “catty” and “bitchy” exist. They are hardly ever applied to men. Men are “bros”. They get along no matter what, even if a woman tries to get in the way – bros before hoes. But women are expected to fight among one another, be in constant competition, and generally be sneaky behind each other’s backs even while claiming to be friends to someone’s face.

Have I met people like this? Yes. Have I been in friendships like this? Yes. But as I’ve gotten older and started choosing quality people in my life, this problem has occurred far less often. And men were just as often the perpetrators of this behavior as women were, in my experience.

In the world of step families, the women are expected to hate each other. It goes so far as to make others uncomfortable when they don’t. I got along with my ex husband’s first wife. Not always, but we mostly had an understanding. That situation could be intense and wasn’t always my favorite dynamic to deal with since I fall hard for friends and lovers equally. I’d like to think once I give someone my loyalty that I have the same in return automatically. The relationship between mom and stepmom in that family was very up and down, in part a lot thanks to my ex husband.

I’d love to help change the stereotype that moms and stepmoms are not supposed to be friends. Yes, there is a level of trust there, but unless the marriage ended in an affair that involved the stepmom, these two women have no reason not to trust or like each other. After all, they fell for the same guy at some point. That right there is something huge in common. They are now raising the same kids. That draws them together or pushes them apart, based on how you want to look at the situation. I’ve found in my current step family that not only do I and my fiance’s ex wife look an awfully lot alike, we also have many of the same interests and even parenting styles for some issues.

Even if you feel you have nothing in common with your partner’s ex or you don’t feel you want to be friends, there are still ways to cultivate a friendly attitude and peace within your own home. One of the first and foremost things to focus on is your own attitude. I’ve found that when I focus on the positive things about the other person, any person you have the potential to be in conflict with, it helps you to be more positive when issues do arise. If your mind is already in a positive place about the person, it helps you to stay there.

Positive also begins with our expectations. Someone once told me that expectations are future disappointments. Going into an interaction with the mom or stepmom and not having an expectation of the turnout but simply allowing it to unfold will help as well. If you walk out with something positive, great. If the interaction was less than desirable, well…you hadn’t hoped for anything so that’s okay and you live to explore other opportunities another day.

So many things have changed for our generation. Step parents used to be much more common as parents who were literally stepping in because of the death of a spouse. Divorce and remarriage was not as common as it is today. Today the parents are both alive and well. There are step parents, step grandparents, step siblings…all bringing their own set of complications to the table. If these things have changed, surely we can work toward a more positive view on the mom/stepmom relationship. Surely we can continue to work, grow, and change toward a more positive stereotype for ourselves as women and most importantly mothers of all types. And, as with any change, it starts with ourselves first.

 

0

I’ve Got a Safety Pin for Ya

I’m going to just say it. Fuck safe spaces. Fuck safety pins. Fuck political correctness.

Image result for safety pin

Do I mean that in the sense of “go out and be an asshole to everyone you meet”? No. Do I mean that in the sense of “live your life and stop apologizing for being a human being”? Yes.

No one made a big deal of safety pins until Trump won the election. I didn’t vote for him, but guess what. He did indeed win. Do you live in the United State? Then he is your President. Time to deal with it. Safety pins have become a whiny bitchy movement about safe spaces and people crying about a fair election.

People pulled the same crap when Obama won. It was just the other side of politics doing it then. So now we look at liberals and we ask “why” and the answer we get it “because you did it first”. Well, no. That’s actually not how politics works. It’s not tit for tat. It’s not “you hurt me, I hurt you”. It’s a legal government process that worked just fine this time around, just as it worked four years ago and four years before that and four years before that and four years before that and… do you get the picture yet?

I went to college. I listened to lectures I didn’t enjoy. I took classes I didn’t love. I did things I was uncomfortable with. It made me who I am today. I didn’t cry “safe space” and try to run from everything. And now that I have diagnosed PTSD from several traumas and bipolar as well? I still don’t cry out for my safe space. Now that I have come out as bisexual? I still don’t want your safety pins.

Because, you see, I woke up on November 19th in the same America that I went to sleep in. The United State of America. All of the college students who needed time off from exams because they were just … SO… distraught… you woke up in the same America as the night before as well. All the people who immediately joined the bandwagon and donned safety pins… you woke up in the same America as the night before. All the people crying “political correctness”, “black lives matter”, “the cast of Hamilton said what we all couldn’t” you All. Woke. Up, In. The. Same. America. And what America is that? The one that gives you the right to say the moronic things you want to say and do the moronic things you want to do. The one that gives you the right to be upset and the right for Trump supporters to support Trump.

Now, if you want to wear a safety pin and try to represent as many people as you can and be a TRUE safe space for ALL people, even those you disagree with? I will make you the most beautifully decorated safety pin you’ve ever seen and send it to you for free. Because that’s America. And I’m proud to live in it.

 

0

It Takes a Village, and Sometimes More

Man, Fishermen, Nature, Village

I have always called myself a bit of a hippie.  I believe in the saying “it takes a village” in more ways than just child-raising. I believe in farming together, the building of community, homeschool, and sharing resources *voluntarily* that you have to spare.

I am the type of person who cringes when the mom of my stepkids hates me or doesn’t get along with me (I’ve been a stepmom twice so no, I’m not talking about anyone in particular), or doesn’t want to be friends. Yes, ::gasp:: I even want to be friends with my stepkids’ biological mother! A village means more than just you and your partner and friends when you are part of a stepfamily. It can sometimes mean the ex and their new partner, sometimes just the ex, sometimes only their partner wants to communicate (which isn’t as helpful, not being an “official” parent, but still kind of them). Sometimes there is radio silence between the two households.

My dream? I would love to live in a small community someday and have all the extended family around, steps included, and live harmoniously with each other and nature. Yes, that kind of hippie. We would find a good amount of land somewhere in a right to farm community where we could pick up maybe ten acres, and build little houses all over it.  I’d like to have a central building with a large kitchen and dining room for “family” meals and homeschool classes for the kids.

So when I say “village” I truly mean it. When last I wrote about this subject there were some rather large changes happening in my life. I was moving *back* into the house I had bought with my ex husband in 2012, this time with my fiancee and his two kids along with my son and myself. My anchor and I have now been back in the house in the country for a year now. We have indeed hosted a number of “crappy dinners”. Our village has changed over the past year. It has grown and expanded and also lost people. We have some surprising additions and some surprising drop offs. Such is life.

I still consider my ex to be part of my son’s family and extended family, despite no contact for a year, which has been hard on my son. I have grown closer with my fiance’s ex wife and her boyfriend. We recently had them over for dinner to discuss kid matters and all of us trying to find two houses in the same town next year when we move. Our “home for lost souls” will move to a new location, but will stay as amazing and helpful as it has always been.

I have added Navy buddies, another boyfriend, lost girlfriends and friends, become closer with friends I’ve had for decades, and had quite the adventurous year of ups and downs.

I believe in my village. I trust it. I value it above many other things. It’s through my village I have had the strength to make it through bad mental health days, to find the motivation to be a good mom despite obstacles, to have people to love and take care of, to inspire me to cook again, to organize, to get my life more on track and achieve some of my goals.

A year later I’m training to be a doula, we’re discussing buying a house with a couple other family members, the kids are thriving, I’m homeschooling my son, I’m writing again, and we are working on family and mental health issues.

So find those crazy people who are a lot like you, love them hard, hold onto them, for that is your tribe.